Special Report

The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Source: Mjwaters2 / Wikimedia Commons

10. Maryland
> 2016 GDP: $333.34 billion (15th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.0% (tied–16th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.2% (23rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.2% (18th slowest growth)

A low poverty rate is usually a sign the economy is in good shape, as residents are more likely to find high-paying employment opportunities, and to have disposable incomes to spend on goods and services. With a poverty rate of just 9.7%, Maryland is one of just two states, along with New Hampshire, in which the poverty rate is below 10%. The U.S. poverty rate is 14.7%.

Maryland’s economy is also likely made stronger by the population’s high educational attainment — approximately 39% of the state’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, the third largest share of any state. College-educated adults are more likely to earn high incomes and are more likely to maintain steady employment during economic downturns.

Source: Thinkstock

9. California
> 2016 GDP: $2.30 trillion (the largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 3.2% (3rd largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.7% (13th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.8% (5th fastest growth)

Consumers, businesses, and the government in California spent trillions of dollars in 2016, helping to make the state’s economy larger than most countries and the largest of all states in the U.S. California’s economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate over the five years through 2016, the third fastest growth rate of any state economy. While jobs were also added over that time at an annual rate of 2.8%, the fifth fastest growth of any state, 4.7% of California’s labor force was unemployed as of May, one of the higher jobless rates in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

8. Minnesota
> 2016 GDP: $296.44 billion (17th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.7% (17th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.7% (17th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.6% (22nd fastest growth)

STEM jobs often drive innovation, and they are projected to grow faster than most other professions in the coming years. Such jobs typically require educated workers, and 34.7% of adults in Minnesota have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 30.6% of adults nationwide. Currently, 6.9% of Minnesota’s workforce are employed in STEM jobs, one of the larger shares of any state. Growth in the state’s scientific and technical services sector was more than enough to offset economic declines in the manufacturing, construction, and resource extraction sectors in 2016, and Minnesota’s GDP grew at a pace roughly in line with the U.S. as a whole.

Source: Thinkstock

7. Hawaii
> 2016 GDP: $73.25 billion (13th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.5% (tied–21st largest growth)
> Unemployment: 2.7% (3rd lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.7% (18th fastest growth)

The highly desirable real estate in Hawaii is by far the most expensive in the country. The typical home in the state is valued at $566,900, compared to the national median home value of $194,500. Even with the second highest median household income of $73,486, housing in Hawaii is the least affordable in the United States.

While this means the benefits of Hawaii’s strong economy could be concentrated among a relatively small share of wealthy households, the broader population still enjoys nearly the lowest unemployment rate in the country. In May, just 2.7% of the labor force was unemployed, the third lowest unemployment rate of any state.

Source: Michael Feist / Wikimedia Commons

6. Washington
> 2016 GDP: $414.18 billion (14th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 2.9% (tied–6th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.5% (17th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.5% (9th fastest growth)

Driven by the likes of manufacturing giant Boeing, retail and shipping behemoth Amazon, and software company Microsoft, Washington’s economy is one of the most productive in the country. The state’s exports, which at close to $80 billion in 2016 were valued third highest of all states, accounted for 19.2% of the state’s economy, the second largest such share of all states.

Washington’s economic growth is outpacing the nation as a whole. The state’s five-year GDP and employment growth rates, at 2.9% and 2.5% respectively, rank within the top 10 out of all states.

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